How To Pack Like Joan Didion


Being “put together' is a strategic existence that's hard to master. Mainly because in order to feel authentic, it has to come from a natural instinct that, by design, is unable to be mastered. In the same vein, having a coterie of no-nonsense products (which are cool only because you use them and for no other reason) doesn't often come easily. Example: Certain members of our staff have relentlessly pursued a surprisingly hard-to-find bar of Basis since they read Joan Didion's book of essays, The White Album, in which she mentions using it. Among other shining and important attributes, Didion is the epitome of natural, easy elegance and intellect. We are patiently awaiting her documentary, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live.

But relevant to more pressing needs (namely, dwindling opportunities for summer vacations): On page 34, Didion references her packing list, one which should be immediately ripped out of the book, laminated, and kept safely inside your nearest carry-on. Joan kept it taped to her closet door, she writes, “during those years when I was reporting more or less steadily. This list enabled me to pack, without thinking, for any piece I was likely to do.” Yes, put-together people always know what to bring on the road. But more importantly, put-together people can write lists good enough to publish in books. It follows:


- 2 skirts

- 2 jerseys or leotards

- 1 pullover sweater

- 2 pair shoes

- stockings

- bra

- nightgown, robe, slippers

- cigarettes

- bourbon

- bag with: shampoo, toothbrush and paste, Basis soap, razor, deodorant, aspirin, prescriptions, Tampax, face cream, powder, baby oil


- mohair throw

- typewriter

- 2 legal pads and pens

- files

- house key

Simple, straight-forward, but loose enough to remain elusively cool.

Of course, Didion's packing list isn't the only iconic takeaway from The White Album. Joan and this book cover have inspired the likes of Céline and Alexa Chung for AG, filmmakers, and photographers. The dusty '70s in LA were as romantic and interesting as this image lets on, apparently.

We could fangirl all day (join us!), but at the moment, we're interested in your practicality in this matter. Got a fail-safe approach to packing? Please share. We can't speak for all of you, but many of us could probably benefit.

Photo by ITG.

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